These two notebook stragglers come from the Florence brewery in London as part of the Head in a Hat range.
No, I hadn't heard of it either, but a look at the website reveals a pretty interesting setup. The concept behind these beers is that of raising old recipes from the past, as well as doing some experimentation for the sake of it. I can get on board with that.
The first is Tommy, a 4.2% IPA with a recipe from 1914. It's refreshing to see the blurb not entirely endorsing the whole '"heavily hopped and stronger for shipping to India" myth, and this beer certainly doesn't aspire to appease any modern standards.
In the glass it looks limp and pissy, and it takes some effort to inspire a head. The nose is interesting from the offset, with grain sweetness and the like making up the bones of it alongside a lightly fruity backing that's quite difficult to pin down. It's mild and approachable. The taste, on the other hand, is weird. First sip gets a nice, spicy, herbal thing before it becomes coriander and liquorice (no joke) among vaguely lemony highlights, all pretty much lost in the folds of cloying caramel. There's some just-about-detectable herbal, vegetal bitterness to be found at a stretch. Curious, but I'm forced to conclude that I just don't like it.
Curiouser still is Gin, a 4.1% summer ale brewed with botanicals from the City of London Distillery. It pours crystal clear orange and the head, like in the Tommy, just rushes away. The nose and palate get the same harsh malt-forwardness as the Tommy, but I stick with it to try and find just a hint of juniper. I didn't.
These two beers represent a noble pursuit, but to this drinker, both fail to function as beers one wants to drink again. Still, if I'm in the area I'll definitely be visiting the gorgeous brewpub, though I imagine I'll be drinking the Florence range before I go venturing back into the past.